Late March has seen the uptick in coronavirus deaths the world feared, with the toll doubling twice from about 5,000 to nearing 25,000 today.
It is this kind of exponential growth that experts warn can bring catastrophic numbers if steps to flatten the rise, such as testing, business shutdowns and social separation, fail.
The U.S. death count has doubled the past three days to over 1,300. If the two-fold growth continues, mortality numbers would reach tens of thousands in the coming months.
“COVID has been spreading with exponential growth in U.S. for some time, and we’re just beginning to get an understanding of how extensively,” blogged Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
Arguing for stronger isolation policies, not less as President Trump has signaled, Dr. Inglesby said, “To drop all these measures now would be to accept that COVID patients will get sick in extraordinary numbers all over the country, far beyond what the U.S. health care system could bear.”
The White House is watching the numbers closely as the COVID-19 task force looks to Tuesday as a time it can say new cases and deaths are slowing.
Dr. Deborah Birx, an influential Trump adviser, pointed to one favorable trend. She said at Thursday’s White House briefing that 19 of 50 states which had early virus diagnoses have maintained “persistently low level of cases” with less than 200.
“So that’s almost 40 percent of the country with extraordinarily low numbers,” she said. “These 19 states are doing still active containment. They’re at 200 cases despite the fact that they’ve been measuring them over the last three to four weeks.”
On the downside, 50 percent of all new cases are emerging in the New York City metro area, the country’s epicenter.
Dr. Birx also said that known infection histories in Italy, South Korea and China do not support various doomsday statistical modeling being floated by various research institutions. She said that if one of those worst-case models was applied to Italy it would have 400,000 deaths by now, not 8,000.
The U.S. has greatly ramped up testing, with over 500,000 completed by Friday. That means improvement in locating, treating and isolating people.
People are only supposed to be tested if they have classic symptoms: fever and a cough. So far 86 percent of the symptomatic have come back negative for coronavirus, a good sign, Dr. Birx said.
America fares well when compared to other economical powers, the G-7 countries, in deaths per-capita. It has a 3.1 rate per million people, according to Our World in Data at Oxford University in England. Canada is best at 1, then Germany (2.4), Japan (4); United Kingdom (6); France (20); and Italy (120).
The U.S. identified its first COVID-19 case as appearing on Jan. 15 in a traveler arriving in the Seattle area from Wuhan, China. Canada believes its first case happened in Toronto on Jan. 25 in a person who had also been in Wuhan.
Italy’s 8,000 deaths are by far the most for any country, including China, where the virus escaped from a wild animal meat market in Wuhan and began infecting people in December.
A year ago this month, Italy broke with the other European states. It signed an agreement with communist China to import its “Belt and Road Initiative” which is supposed to bring infrastructure investments and more trade to perk up Italy’s slow business and jobs cycle.
Critics see it as a shrewd move by President Xi Jinping to obtain an economic foothold in Europe’s southern flank.
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